FRIEND-L ArchivesArchiver > FRIEND > 2002-09 > 1032175477
From: David Sylvester <>
Subject: List info -- Important! Please read.
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2002 07:25:25 -0400
This is a hodgepodge of items that have come to mind that need to
be addressed with varying degrees of importance. Some of the items
addressed are due to issues that came up on some of my lists but
not all them, yet this is going out to all my lists that I
administer at Rootsweb.
The items I'm going to discuss tonight (I began writing this letter
last night) are:
Off topic messages
* Excessive quoting:
My inspiration to write at this time is due to a rash of posts
tonight to one of my lists with excessive quoting. Four members
replied to the list and all four quoted the footers (a.k.a.
taglines) of the previous message. One member quoted back to the
list three entire previously sent messages including the three
Dear members we do not quote footers! It's in the welcome letter
that you received either upon joining the list or a copy of it sent
to the list when I instated the no quoting footers rule. And
entire previously posted messages don't need to be resent to the
list. Quote only enough to remind people what the thread is about.
But the problem isn't only at that one list -- it occurs in several
of them. Just because you see other members quoting footers
doesn't mean the rule has been lifted or that I'm not
watching. Those members who violate the rule, every one of them,
are put in moderated mode (just like I said would happen) and they
get a letter from me along with another copy of the welcome letter
with a suggestion that they reread it.
There is a purpose for quoting previous messages and a reason for
editing out unnecessary material. Quoting some of the previous
letter (the part that the other member wrote that includes
genealogy data) helps other members recall what the discussion is
about. Quoting the previous footer (tagline) is redundant as a new
one will be automatically added to your post.
Removing that material makes it easier to read the relevant
genealogical data that has been shared by you and your fellow members.
Again here is that rule from your welcome letter:
No excess quoting
When replying to the list it is expressly forbidden to repost:
-- headers including explanatory notes that were added by this
-- the previous poster's sig block, surname list or advertisement
from their email service.
-- the list tagline. A new tagline will be automatically added to
your post; resending the previous one is redundant.
-- any note from the previous message indicating that their
outgoing email was virus scanned.
-- any other tagline or advertisement that was added by Rootsweb or
There is simply no reason in the world to include any of the above
in your reply to the list. They have already been seen and only add
clutter when resent. See some helpful tips on quoting in the
guidelines section [see the welcome letter for that section].
Now here is the stickler. Many people are still going to be
confused as to what should be included and what they should remove.
To help explain it let's consider the following example.
Let's say you receive a list message that interests you. You have
some information on that family line to share with the members and
you would like to send a reply to the list. You begin by removing
all headers, footers, sig lines, taglines, ads, etc. as required.
Then you scratch your head and think to yourself:
"Now what else can I remove to make the listowner happy?"
Well the answer might be "Nothing else!"
You've already removed the unwanted stuff leaving only genealogy
data, that material which was typed in by the previous poster.
That's fine! You *may* continue to delete more material leaving
only that portion that is pertinent to the data you wish to add.
But if you're not sure or if you feel all the quoted data pertains
to your thoughts then by all means leave it intact. That's the
importance of quoting, leaving something to remind other readers
what the thread is about.
On another list recently I had a problem with a spammer. Generally
spam as pertains to lists at Rootsweb is not a concern to members,
only to listowners and staff. Most spam sent to the lists are
either blocked by software at the server end before they reach the
membership or they, having been sent to the subscription address,
are only seen by the listowner. Most spammers haven't figured out
yet that their target, the several members of the list, will never
see their dirty work but sometimes it happens.
In this recent case the spammer joined the list and sent his/her
message there. See
. Several members wrote me and were justifiably upset. One of
them even left the list.
Obviously I removed and banned the offending address. I also put
the list in moderated mode while I figured out what to do about the
I posed the problem to the Listowners list (Yes, we listowners even
have a list where we share ideas and put our heads together to help
solve problems such as spam, unruly list members, mail bounces,
etc. and to interpret headers -- the long ones, and more) and the
best solution suggested was to change a list setting where members
now cannot subscribe themselves without my approval.
It will work this way: Someone sends in a subscription request and
instead of automatically being subscribed the request comes to
me. I then send them a copy of the welcome letter along with a
letter explaining the new policy. They're asked to send me a short
note stating that they have read and understand the rules and
guidelines and that they intend to post appropriately. If there is
something they don't understand they can ask me at that time.
When I'm sure they're going to be upstanding members I add them
manually. If I don't hear back from them, then perhaps they
weren't all that interested in finding their roots anyway.
* Off topic messages
My discussion on off topic messages will cover two areas -- a
current situation and an old one that possibly finally got cured. :-)
A few days ago someone on a list sent a message asking about list
"activity" since he had not seen any message traffic in the few
days he had been a member. No data, no query, nothing about
genealogy, just that one question. Folks if you haven't guessed
already that's an off topic message.
Now I knew from experience as a listowner that just as surely as
dropped buttered toast always lands buttered side down, someone
would send in a reply complete with equally little genealogical
material. So I quickly changed the list to moderated mode so that
I could intercept that off topic reply before it got to the list.
Well guess what -- I didn't get ONE reply.
I got TEN replies !! Each one lacking for genealogy just like the
first one and each one continuing the discussion about list
activity. Okay you can call those eleven messages (counting the
original) "activity" but they sure do little to further family
People, you as genealogists are "supposed" to be annoyed by those
messages not inspired to join in and further reduce the
signal-to-noise ratio! Had I not intercepted the replies they
would all be sitting in the archives all in a row, to remain there
forever, for future and current researchers to sift through.
Please folks, I've said this many times before, let's keep it
If you want to generate some activity send in your query. Surely
some members have not yet found their missing ancestor. If you
want to find them write in and tell us who you're looking
for. There's a good possibility someone will reply (with excess
material removed) with data, theories, or suggestions of where else
you might look.
The other area of off topic messages pertains to an old problem
that now seems to have gone away. Now I hope someone doesn't prove
me wrong by posting that kind of message tonight!! LoL
In the early days of genealogy mailing lists people often sent
virus warnings, many of which were hoaxes, and solutions to
computer virus problems to the lists. After much education and
many cautions by listowners most people finally caught on that
those messages were not wanted in genealogy lists.
Just when virus warnings seemed to be obsolete one member of a list
sent a message and stated something to the effect, and I'm
paraphrasing, "I know this is against the rules but I'm gonna do it
anyway" and proceeded with the off topic message. Enough said.
Since that time, I'm glad to say I've hardly seen any mention of
viruses in my lists, other than my own reminders. I want to thank
all you members for keeping virus warnings out of our genealogy lists.
* Signature blocks
The subject of Sig blocks is something I haven't covered much until
lately but it is included in the current welcome letter in the
Guidelines section. Also some links to relevant resources are
given in the index page to the list homepages -- see
http://www.mdwsweb.com/genealogylists . I should also add that
some members have sent me letters complaining about long sig blocks
and justifiably so.
While most lists, forums, newsgroups, etc. consider four to five
lines plenty long enough I state in my guidelines that five to ten
lines is more than enough. This gives members more leeway. But
any more than that is really excessive. Again this isn't a rule as
such but is more of a guideline, at least in these lists. I'm not
going to count lines in sig blocks but I'm going to ask you to use
Suggestion: Rotate your items and include one or two with each
Another suggestion: If you have something to offer the members,
such as your book, CD, etc. or links to all your favorite cool
sites, instead of listing them all in your post, make yourself a
web page and give us the URL to that site alone. Making a web page
isn't that hard to do and it can be a fun project. Something to
Some people have asked me to use prepends in my lists. Prepends
are those words in brackets that begin the subject field in some
lists. For example:
[SMITH-JONES] blah blah blah ...
I don't like prepends. They take up space in the viewing area
pushing the real subject partially out of view.
People argue that they need prepends because they belong to several
lists. Prepends do not sort your mail. Filters do. All email
clients including Eudora, Pegasus, Netscape, Outlook, even Hotmail
and Yahoo Mail now have filters. See
http://lists.rootsweb.com/index/other/Internet_Help to join lists
to help you with your email program.
A couple more points I'd like to make:
When I send these "pep talk" type messages to the list or when I
send private messages to members I often get replies stating
something like "This isn't how it's done in other lists". I have
two answers to that, one, often things *are* done that way in other
lists but maybe you didn't notice, and two, You're right, things
are different from one list to another. This is covered in the
welcome letter -- check it and see. :)
If you've lost your welcome letter email me (privately of course)
and I'll send you a copy. Or you can download a copy from
Also whenever I send these out I get perhaps an equal volume of
replies pro and con. Some saying the letter is too long or too
rigid or they don't have time to read it. Others saying Good job,
Well done, or Right on Man.
Unfortunately some people enthusiastically send those replies to
the list contrary to the lessons therein. Therefore I've
temporarily set the list to moderated mode for maybe a day or so
until that urge is diminished.
As always, if you haven't posted your query in a while and still
haven't found your missing ancestor please do send it in as we have
knowledgeable members joining often.
Best regards to all,
|List info -- Important! Please read. by David Sylvester <>|